Ad industry reacts strongly to HFSS consultation

The Government consultation was launched on 10 November.

IPA Director General Paul Bainsfair has joined other industry leaders in condemning Government plans for the introduction of a total ban on the advertising of high fat, salt and sugar food and drink online as 'severe and disproportionate'.

In a joint statement following the launch of the Government consultation, the leaders of the AA, ISBA, IPA and IAB outlined their position on the proposals, the consultation process and the wider social and economic context surrounding the ban.

"Obesity is rightly recognised by the public and by health experts as a complex problem, and one for which there is no single answer. But the proposal to completely outlaw online advertising of certain food and drink is a severe and disproportionate measure that goes far beyond the Government’s objective of protecting children. Instead, it will do untold harm to the UK’s vitally important creative sector and food & drink businesses at an economically precarious time.

"The advertising sector is a proven engine of the UK economy, and we would urge ministers not to damage the jobs and tax revenue it creates. Beyond these direct benefits, the UK’s world-leading advertising sector also underpins the success of the food and drink industry – itself the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.

"The Government is setting out headline-grabbing proposals, but we are far from convinced that they have made the case, or set out the evidence for, a heavy-handed intervention of this kind. We urge ministers to start engaging meaningfully with industry now, and to develop evidenced solutions that are targeted at the problem they wish to address, appropriate to digital media and fit for the 21st century.

"If this policy of an outright ban goes ahead, it will deal a huge blow to UK advertising at a time when it is reeling from the impact of Covid-19. This consultation has landed just as we have entered another period of lockdown, with all the heightened uncertainty this creates for people and businesses right across the country. Businesses that should be devoting their time and energy to surviving this economically unpredictable situation will now have to devote precious resources to responding to the Government and working out whether they will even be able to advertise their products in future. To borrow the Prime Minister’s language, this is not an ‘oven ready’ policy; it is not even half-baked. But it does have all the ingredients of a kick in the teeth for our industry from a Government which we believed was interested in prioritising economic growth alongside targeted interventions to support health and wellbeing."

Co-signed: Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association, Phil Smith, Director General, ISBA (Incorporated Society of British Advertisers), Paul Bainsfair, Director General, IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) and Jon Mew, CEO, IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau UK).

The Government’s consultation is accompanied by a lengthy evidence note and contains 38 questions. Responses are required by 22 December and the IPA will be working with our HFSS working group, and liaising with the Advertising Association, ISBA and other trade bodies in formulating our response.

Paul Bainsfair, Stephen Woodford, Phil Smith and Jon Mew also wrote an opinion piece outlining their opposition to the plans featured in The Times. Read their comment here.
Last updated 25 November 2020